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In Print: On News Stands Now

TREASURE IN TRASH

by Tumbleweed Smith

John Nickle of Rusk had a flea market between Rusk and Alto and was always going to garage sales to buy leftover merchandise so he could replenish his inventory. Late one day he stopped at a garage sale way out in the country. A lady from Dallas was there.

"Her mother had died ten years ago and she was trying to get rid of all the things in the garage that had been there the whole time since her mother died," says John. "When I got there she told me she had only two customers all day. One bought nothing, the other bought 50 cents worth so she was ready to give the stuff away. I asked her what she would take for all of it. She said a hundred dollars. I saw several tools and things that would net me at least 2 or 3 hundred dollars so I almost broke my wrist getting the money out to pay her."

There was one stipulation. John had to take ALL the merchandise because the people who were renting the house wanted to use the garage. The lady got in her car and went back to Dallas. Two and a half pickup loads later, John found an old box full of musty-smelling, moldy red velvet curtains.

"I threw it on the tailgate of the truck and hoped it would blow off before I got back to my flea market. The first thing I did was to put that box under a table and forget about it."

Six months later John was talking to his wife about those curtains and she suggested he try to get rid of that musty smell because people were making stuffed animals out of that red velvet material and someone might want to buy it.

"I was hanging those curtains over some partitions I had in there and my hand rubbed across something and I found an old Bull Durham tobacco sack pinned to those curtains. It contained a gold coin from Iran worth 350 dollars, a gold pin with a diamond in it worth about 400 dollars and a platinum ring with a big diamond."

John took the ring to a local jeweler who offered a couple of hundred dollars for it. John let his wife wear the ring.

"One day I was going to Tyler and decided to take the ring with me to get a good appraisal of it. The jeweler worked with it about twenty minutes and came out with a certificate. He told me the ring was worth ten thousand dollars. I was stunned. On the way home I saw that certificate lying on the seat and I stopped the car, got out and shouted expressions of joy at the top of my lungs. People seeing me do that must have thought I was crazy."

John says nine or ten times he was ready to go to the dump with that box of curtains, but didn't have room for it on the pickup.

"Those curtains were worthless to me as far as I was concerned. I wonder how much stuff in the world happens like that. I could just imagine the old lady just before going to the hospital pinning those items to the curtains, thinking they would be safe until she returned. But she died in the hospital. Those things could easily have ended up in the dump just as easy as ending up in my hands."

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